Williams tends the herd and the National Buffalo Museum

Progress Buffalo Museum exterior.jpg
The National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown is open to visitors year round and is located near the Frontier Village. Submitted photo

Working at a job you enjoy makes the tasks more enjoyable and the same could be said for volunteering, according to Don Williams, president of the board of directors of the National Buffalo Museum.

"I started to do some volunteer work there years ago," he said. "I got hooked by the bison. They grow on you, they've got a history."

Williams said along with a growing interest in the bison, his role at the museum also grew to a leadership position.

"That was not my intention back then," he said.

Williams has been on the board of directors for nine years and president for about four years.


"In the last few years we've made so many changes and upgrades," Williams said. "... It keeps us pumped up. It keeps us moving."

Those changes and upgrades have improved the experience for visitors at the National Buffalo Museum, said Ilana Xinos, executive director of the museum. Williams was an important part of those changes.

"He's enthusiastic and passionate about our mission and he's been amazing to work with," she said. "He dedicates much of his time and energy to helping the museum grow, and we would not be where we are today without his efforts."

Plans call for new displays in the future at the National Buffalo Museum including a full-sized buffalo game similar to the old children's game of "Operation." The theater and other displays, including a taxidermy mount of White Cloud, the albino bison that lived in the Buffalo Museum herd for more than 20 years, also continue to attract visitors from all around the world.

"Even after her passing, White Cloud is still an attraction," Williams said.

Still, many of the visitors to the museum are there to see a herd of live buffalo.

Williams said the recent controversies involving the management of Frontier Village may have changed the local perception of the National Buffalo Museum.

"Most people thought we were one organization," he said, referring to the National Buffalo Museum and the Frontier Village Association. "We're not."


The city of Jamestown chose not to renew the lease of the grounds of the Frontier Village location to the FVA. After a series of meetings, the assets of the FVA were transferred to the city of Jamestown. Plans for the future of the Frontier Village are still ongoing.

"That could bring changes and there is a lot of work to do," Williams said. "I don't how much we'll be included in the final plan. We'll keep involved and hope for the best."

Along with his efforts at the National Buffalo Museum, Williams spends some time volunteering at the North Dakota Veterans Home in Lisbon. He also pursues a more personal volunteer effort.

"I like to go out to the cemeteries and clean things up especially around veterans' graves," he said. "We cannot forget those people."

Williams said he spends most of his volunteer time working with the National Buffalo Museum. The organization not only operates the Jamestown museum but is involved in the promotion of the bison industry on a national scale.

"Don (Williams) is a great advocate for bison restoration and has a genuine interest in learning about issues that affect today's commercial bison industry," Xinos said.

For Williams, who grew up with a farm and ranch background, that involves a lot of time in the pasture with the animals rather than in the museum with the displays.

"I think I've got ranching in my blood," he said. "It fits my interest. You get to know the animals. I love it."


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